Water Stones, Oil Stones: What’s Best for Knife-Sharpening?

So you've got a beautiful, high-quality chef's knife. How do you keep it sharp enough to push-cut paper or shave arm hair, two feats Chowhound Chemicalkinetics considers the mark of a proper blade?

For Eiron, it means using a 1,000-grit Japanese water stone (pictured) for home sharpening. It takes a bit of fussing with. You have to soak the stone in water before using and carefully dry it afterward. Plus it needs occasional resurfacing (i.e., flattening). And since the sandpaperlike grit on a water stone gradually wears away, you'll eventually need to replace it.

The water stone's primary alternative is a ceramic stone. It requires virtually no upkeep, doesn't require soaking, and should last forever. The bad news: It doesn't sharpen as quickly as a water stone, plus it's more expensive. Eiron recommends water stones for knives made of harder steel; otherwise, both kinds should do a good job.

A third alternative is an oil stone, which is like a water stone except you use oil instead of water as a honing liquid. As a beginner, jvanderh found an oil stone to be to difficult to use. And though they're fine for softer steel blades, they're not really appropriate for Japanese knives, TraderJoe says.

There are a lot of videos out there demonstrating knife sharpening with all kinds of stones, but TraderJoe recommends taking a class to avoid developing bad habits, which can be hard to break.

Discuss: I'm overwhelmed. Can you help me pick a knife? [Sharpening]

Photo of chef demonstrating proper use of Japanese water stone from Shutterstock